Jason Cowen thinks marijuana can save the world. Or at least save some lives.
The owner of AgriGroup (you might be more familiar with their dispensary, AgriMeds Alternatives), Cowen is a firm believer in medical marijuana to treat, and possibly even cure, several diseases and conditions that are plaguing Oklahomans.
“We’ve got to get people to stop seeing it with horns,” he said. “It’s not toxic. God, The Creator, whatever you want to call it, put marijuana here for us.”
One step he’s taking to help people get past their preconceived notions about marijuana is a multi-course hemp-infused dinner. Cowen, Indie Lazar, Chronicpalooza founder Carri Lawrence and podcaster Larry “Man on Weed” Reed are hoping to make this a regular event, but for now they’re concentrating on the first one: April 21 at 16th Street Event Center, 1617 N. Meridian Ave., in Oklahoma City
Tickets are $69 (available here), but attendees must be 18 years or older and be in possession of their OMMA card. The meal includes a salad, an entree, a drink and a dessert.
“$69 sounds like a lot for a meal, but I think it’s worth at least $79,” Cowen said. “I would have said ‘priceless,’ but I really do think the food and the experience are more than worth the price of the ticket.”
Cowen said he got to experience one of Freitas’ meals when they first met and he was impressed with how the chef wove cannabis into each dish--even a non-alcoholic beverage--in such a seamless fashion.
“He’s been doing this long enough to know, not just how to cook the food well, but to put the right dose in each course to make sure diners leave feeling great, but not wiped out,” he said. “I was amazed at the texture, the juiciness, of the chicken. His flavors were right on target.”
Freitas said one thing he does that’s different from what people get from edibles is using terpenes and CBD as well as THC to give guests the full flavor of cannabis without completely incapacitating them.
“That’s why I say they’re hemp-infusion dinners,” he said. “Too much THC gives people anxiety. The hardest thing about being an infusion chef is doing a five-course meal that doesn’t leave everybody drooling on the table.”
Freitas said the April 21 hemp-infused dinner will be five courses of Okie-Caribbean food, including a course of jerk chicken, rice and beans.
“I do everything in courses and everything will have non-infused options, as well,” he said.
The end goal, Cowen said, is for Oklahomans to learn to grow and cook their own cannabis.
“It can be the cheapest medicine out there that helps the largest number of people and it’s all natural,” he said.
Organizers are expecting about 100 people for the April 21 dinner, but it could grow as the dinners continue.
Freitas said he hopes to do these dinners in Oklahoma City at least once a month, but possibly more often if the interest is there.
For Cowen and Lazar, these meals are not just about spreading the word of cannabis as medicine, but cannabis as an outreach tool. One of the beneficiaries of the meal is Church 420—a non-denominational church that uses the sacrament of cannabis to bring the congregation closer to God.
“It’s about self-improvement. It’s about self-discovery. It’s about getting to a higher level in your mind,” she said. “I use cannabis as a sacrament in my daily routine. I take a hit and meditate for 30 minutes. That’s when I get one-on-one with God.”
Lazar consults with the church and supports its mission of using the funds to help communities in need with cannabis. Some of the funds raised by the dinners will go to a patient assistance program that helps low-income patients, veterans, cancer patients, and the elderly get their OMMA cards and discounted prices on medication.
“It’s the same thing the big pharmaceutical companies do, but we’re doing it on a smaller, more personal scale,” she said.
Her belief in cannabis as a medicine is well-founded. After being hit by a drunk driver, Lazar spent 20 years at the mercy of opiates. After the passage of SQ 788, she’s finally off the oxycodone and oxycontin using only marijuana to manage her pain. She’s hopeful the hemp-infused dinner is a step toward helping others do the same.